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Tuesday January 19, 2016 in Books
Award-winning Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s third collection, Injun, is a long poem about racism and the representation of Indigenous peoples. Composed of text found in western novels published between 1840 and 1950 – the heyday of pulp publishing and a period of unfettered colonialism in North America – Injun then uses erasure, pastiche, and a focused poetics to create a visually striking response to the western genre.
After compiling the online text of 91 of these now public-domain novels into one gargantuan document, Abel used his word processor’s “Find” function to search for the word “injun.” The 509 results were used as a study in context: How was this word deployed? What surrounded it? What was left over once that word was removed? Abel then cut up the sentences into clusters of three to five words and rearranged them into
the long poem that is Injun. The book contains the poem as well as peripheral material that will help the reader to replicate, intuitively, some of the conceptual processes that went into composing the poem.
Though it has been phased out of use in our “post-racial” society, the word “injun” is peppered throughout pulp western novels. Injun retraces, defaces, and effaces the use of this word as a colonial and racial marker. While the subject matter of the source text is clearly problematic, the textual explorations in Injun help to destabilize the colonial image of the “Indian” in the source novels, the western genre as a whole, and the western canon.
Read three poems from Injun on our blog, Meta-Talon.
ISBN 13: 9780889229778 | ISBN 10: 0889229775
5.5 W x 8.5 H inches | 112 pages
$16.95 CAN / $16.95 US
Backlist | Poetry | Bisac: POE011000
QUOTES OF NOTE
“A monumental poetic work … a slender, yet compelling and impactful volume that graphically undertakes to expose the hateful mythology imposed on Native American peoples beginning with North America’s European colonial history. … Abel’s graphics in Injun are masterfully crafted … Abel has dramatically explicated [the problematic history of the American West] with Injun, which is the book’s greatest contribution.”
“In Injun, Abel carefully un-writes ninety-one Western novels in the public domain … While Injun is conceptually difficult and, indeed, demanding in the most productive of ways, the remarkably condensed, although potent, lines that Abel un-creates from within the body of such a disturbing collection of texts are demonstrative of his unique ability to converge conceptual, political, and affective registers seamlessly. … Injun recasts the book as a textual object … It is no wonder that Abel has received so much critical attention, as he is one of the most innovative and thrilling poets writing today.”
“The poet breaks words, even as lands and languages have been broken by colonial power. Fragmented and fugitive pieces lie at the heart of Injun. … Injun nevertheless has the same astonishing impact as his earlier work in re-establishing the presence of Indigenous culture against silence and absence. Techniques of collage and pastiche restore the margins, invert dichotomies of paleface and redskin, and rearrange legends, myths, and rituals. … Injun’s brackets alert us not only to what is enclosed, but also to what has escaped.”
“Jordan Abel’s book of poetry, Injun, destabilizes Western texts and forces us to engage in a new conversation with the literature that has been a cornerstone for writers, readers, and critics for hundreds of years. … Injun is an artful exploration of the brutal colonialism that informs which voices are priviledged. … Injun isn’t just good; it is singular and essential.”
2017 Griffin Poetry Prize (Winner)
About the ContributorsJordan Abel
Jordan Abel is a Nisga’a writer currently completing his PhD at Simon Fraser University, where his studies focus on digital humanities and indigenous poetics. Abel’s
conceptual writing engages with the representation of indigenous peoples in anthropology and popular culture.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.